Late-Night Comedy Writers Score Safeguards In Streaming Amid WGA/AMPTP Negotiations

As Hollywood waits for movement between the WGA and AMPTP, a ray of sunlight emerged for comedy/variety writers in the latest back-and-forth.

Late-night writers, and writers who work on variety shows such as Netflix’s Tim Robinson series I Think You Should Leave, have been fighting for safeguards in streaming.

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Back in February, in its Pattern of Demands, the WGA said that it wanted MBA minimums to apply to “comedy variety programs made for new media”.

This has now, seemingly, been settled, as both the WGA and AMPTP confirmed that comedy variety writers on streaming shows, which include Apple’s The Problem with Jon Stewart and Peacock’s The Amber Ruffin Show, will now be covered.

The AMPTP pointed out on Tuesday that for the first time ever, writers for high-budget subscription video-on-demand comedy variety programs will receive the same terms and conditions that apply under Appendix A, which essentially covers all other types of programming outside of scripted TV shows and films.

The WGA admitted that the studios had “ceded” selected minimum terms for comedy variety writers. The guild called these terms “insufficient” – it does not cover game show writers or daytime writers – but nonetheless, it appears the guild has scored a win for those people that work, or will work, on late-night streaming shows in future.

While late-night has struggled to gain traction on streaming due to topicality, it’s only a matter of time before one of the digital services cracks the genre or one of the broadcast networks moves a linear show to streaming. The next Seth Meyers or Desus & Mero is more likely to emerge from a streaming service than a broadcast network given the current landscape so such a move protects them.

Late-night writers that Deadline spoke to were broadly positive about the move, but hesitant given the disagreements on other major issues.

It has been an issue that has been present on the picket lines, particularly in New York, where the majority of these shows are based.

Devin Delliquanti, a writer on The Daily Show, told Deadline in May that he was striking because there were no minimums in this area. “We’re trying to win a fair deal for comedy variety writers. There are a lot of shows that start on streaming and could eventually move to streaming and we’re just trying to make sure that they get a fair deal.”

John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Jordan Klepper, Amber Ruffin and Ziwe have all been seen on the picket lines.

Ruffin, whose eponymous show is arguably one of the most high-profile late-night shows on streaming, joked that the studios are “so bad that they got the writers to leave the house”.

Speaking at the WGA East Comedy Writers Picket in July, she added, “It feels great to come out and protest with you guys and to look in your unpaid eyes and know they we’re all going to be ok and we’re all going to make it. Coming out to these things, fills you with a fire and a beautiful anger because these people are taking advantage of you and your home and your writing, but then you get out here and you see this. Let’s stay angry and full of love with each other.”

Ed Note: This article was amended after suggesting that the AMPTP was waiting for a WGA response to its latest contract offer.

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